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Zheng's Grand plan off to scintillating start

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-01 09:44
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Zheng Qinwen reacts to a point during her US Open first-round win over Jelena Ostapenko at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on Tuesday. Chinese teenager Zheng fired 21 aces to edge Latvia's 2017 French Open champion, who was seeded 16th, in three sets-6-3, 3-6, 6-4. AFP

Teenager stuns another major champ to show title dream may not be far off

Asked before the US Open when she might land her first major trophy, Zheng Qinwen rolled her eyes, grinned and replied to her CGTN interviewer: "May I say here this year?"

That may have sounded overambitious for a debutant to some. However, on Tuesday the Chinese teen star made a very convincing case that she could realize that wild dream, taking out a former Grand Slam champion in the opening round of her main-draw debut at Flushing Meadows.

Firing a disruptive barrage of 21 aces, Zheng outplayed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, the 2017 French Open champion, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on Tuesday to send the Chinese fans in the stands at Court 4 to their feet.

It was Zheng's second upset of a Slam winner this year at a major championship, following her threeset, second-round win over Simona Halep at Roland Garros in May. The 19-year-old eventually reached the last 16 in Paris.

In her debut season on the adult professional circuit, Zheng has cleared the first hurdle at all four majors to get her young career off to a scintillating start.

"I think in a big tournament it's always like extra energy for me because you know the Grand Slam is always one of my dreams since I was a little kid," Zheng said following her win on Tuesday.

"So when I got here I said to myself, 'Whatever happens just do your best all the time.' And, yeah, I'm happy that today I did it in front of a big Chinese crowd," said the world No 39.

The Hubei native already looks a force to be reckoned with on the major stage. After reaching the second round at her first Grand Slam, the Australian Open in January, Zheng announced herself as a formidable threat on clay to stun 2018 champion Halep, and then pushed world No 1 and eventual winner Iga Swiatek to her limit in a three-set loss in the fourth round.

As the only player to take a set from the dominant Polish star in Paris, Zheng forced another eventual champion to dig deep for the win when she took Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan to three sets in the third round at Wimbledon.

Now back on her preferred hard courts in New York, Zheng is hoping for an even deeper run than she managed in London or Paris.

"New York is a fascinating city, one of the world's busiest metropolises. I'd really love to see it more but right now my focus is 100 percent on the court," said Zheng, who allies impressive power hitting to swift movement around the court.

"For me, I don't really care who I meet in the draw. I always concentrate on myself. Just take one match at a time, play to the best of my ability and see where I can be."

Zheng will next face Russia's world No 52 Anastasia Potapova in the second round on Thursday.

Yuan Yue of China hits a return to Jaimee Fourlis of Australia during her US Open first-round win on Tuesday. USA TODAY SPORTS

China's Yuan Yue also enjoyed a successful main-draw debut in New York thanks to a straight-sets triumph over Australian wild card Jaimee Fourlis at Court 9.

"I just stay focused on each and every point and always prepare for the next shot. As long as I keep doing the right things without caring too much about the outcome, I believe the result will take care of itself," said world No 124 Yuan, who won three qualifying matches last week to earn a first-round berth.

Yuan, 23, raced into a 5-0 lead before eventually claiming the first set 6-3. She then required medical treatment, however seemed unaffected by the discomfort and wrapped up the match with a 6-2 second set.

Next up for Yuan is a second-round encounter against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, who is ranked 42nd in the world.

Five of the seven Chinese players in the main singles draws have now passed the first round in what is turning out to be a major confidence boost for the nation's emerging next-gen stars.

On Monday, 2017 US Open boys' champion Wu Yibing became the first Chinese mainland player to win a men's singles main-draw match at a Grand Slam in the pro era. The world No 174 beat 31st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in straight sets.

Top-ranked Chinese woman Zhang Shuai and another young prospect, Wang Xiyu, the winner of the 2018 girls' tournament in New York, also advanced on Monday thanks to victories over Switzerland's Jil Teichmann and France's Diane Parry respectively.

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